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The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (Latin : Supremum Tribunal Signaturae Apostolicae) is the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church (apart from the pope himself, who as supreme ecclesiastical judge is the final point of appeal for any ecclesiastical judgment). In addition, it oversees the administration of justice in the church.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
The Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (since 8 November 2014) is Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, who had replaced Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke. The Secretary (since 16 July 2016) is Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, who replaced Archbishop Frans Daneels.
Dominique François Joseph Mamberti is the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in the Roman Curia. He was elevated to the cardinalate by Pope Francis in 2015.
Raymond Leo Burke is an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is an archbishop and the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He served as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri, from 2004 to 2008 and as the bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1995 to 2004. He was Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from June 2008 until November 2014.
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is housed in the Italian Renaissance-era Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome, Italy, which also is the headquarters and meeting place of the Roman Catholic Church's other two Tribunals. The Apostolic Signatura only hears appeals from these two tribunals (which normally have final and universal [worldwide Church] appellate jurisdiction over their respective areas of competence) if some process was in error or there is an inter-agency conflict, and usually not in regard to the judgment which was made or the merits of the case. The two other Tribunals located there are the Sacred Roman Rota (which is normally the final appellate tribunal of the church for most court cases, especially regarding marriage nullity, decisions of Bishops, and ecclesiastical trials and disciplinary procedures), and the Apostolic Penitentiary (which is normally the church's final appellate tribunal regarding all matters having to do with the forgiveness of sins and the proper celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation).
The Italian Renaissance was a period of Italian history that began in the 14th century (Trecento) and lasted until the 17th century (Seicento). It peaked during the 15th (Quattrocento) and 16th (Cinquecento) centuries, spreading across Europe and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity. The French word renaissance means "Rebirth" and defines the period as one of cultural revival and renewed interest in classical antiquity after the centuries labeled the Dark Ages by Renaissance humanists. The Renaissance author Giorgio Vasari used the term "Rebirth" in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects but the concept became widespread only in the 19th century, after the works of scholars such as Jules Michelet and Jacob Burckhardt.
The Palazzo della Cancelleria is a Renaissance palace in Rome, Italy, situated between the present Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Campo de' Fiori, in the rione of Parione. It was built between 1489–1513 by Donato Bramante (1444–1514) as a palace for Cardinal Raffaele Riario, Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, and is regarded as the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome. The Palazzo houses the Papal Chancellery, is an extraterritorial property of the Holy See, and is designated as a World Heritage Site.
The Apostolic Penitentiary, formerly called the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, is one of the three tribunals of the Roman Curia. The Apostolic Penitentiary is chiefly a tribunal of mercy, responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins in the Catholic Church.
The Roman Rota is the ordinary appellate tribunal of the Apostolic See.The Signatura's competence covers:
The Roman Rota, formally the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, and anciently the Apostolic Court of Audience, is the highest appellate tribunal of the Catholic Church, with respect to both Latin-rite members and the Eastern-rite members and is, with respect to judicial trials conducted in the Catholic Church, the highest ecclesiastical court constituted by the Holy See. An appeal may be had to the pope himself, who is the supreme ecclesiastical judge. The Catholic Church has a complete legal system, which is the oldest in the West still in use. The court is named Rota (wheel) because the judges, called auditors, originally met in a round room to hear cases. The Rota was established in the 13th century.
Apart from these judicial matters, the Signatura has competence as an administrative tribunal to deal with controversies over administrative decisions made by or approved by departments of the Roman Curia if it is contended that the decision violated some law, either in the decision-making process or in the procedure used. It can also deal with administrative controversies referred to it by the Pope or those departments, and with conflicts of competence between the departments.
A third field of competence for the Signatura is that of overseeing all the tribunals of the Catholic Church, with power to extend the jurisdiction of tribunals, to grant dispensations from procedural laws, to establish interdiocesan tribunals, and to discipline canonical advocates.
The Cardinal Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura serves ex officio as the President of the Supreme Court of Vatican City (Corte di Cassazione). The two other members of the Supreme Court are also Cardinals of the Apostolic Signatura and are chosen by the Cardinal Prefect on a yearly basis.
In the thirteenth century the Popes made use of "referendarii" to investigate and prepare the signing - hence the name signatura - of petitions and other cases presented to the Holy See. Pope Eugene IV entrusted these referendaries with authority to sign certain petitions and thereby established a permanent office for this purpose. Under Popes Alexander VI, Sixtus IV and Julius II this office was divided into two, the Signatura gratiae for examining petitions for favours, and the Signatura iustitiae for contentious cases. The honourable office of referendary came to be conferred frequently as a merely honorary title, but Pope Sixtus V put a limit on their number, and Pope Alexander VII combined the limited number of voting referendaries into a college, assisted by the simple referendaries, who had only a consultative position. The Signatura gratiae gradually lost its functions to other bodies, and the growth of the work of the Roman Rota, the foundation of the Congregations of Cardinals resulted in the Signatura iustitiae becoming mainly a Supreme Court of the Papal States.
On 29 June 1908, Pope Pius X reestablished a single Apostolic Signatura consisting of six cardinals, one of whom acted as its prefect. On 28 June 1915, Pope Benedict XV reconstituted the college of the voting referendaries and simple referendaries with consultative functions and the 1917 Code of Canon Law removed the limitation of the number of cardinals members of this Supreme Tribunal.
The present competence of the Apostolic Signatura is that laid down in the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus of 28 June 1988.
The members of the Apostolic Signatura are:
The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the Pope’s name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the central organization for the Church to advance its objectives.
A dicastery is a department of the Roman Curia, the administration of the Holy See through which the pope directs the Roman Catholic Church. The most recent comprehensive constitution of the church, Pastor bonus (1988), includes this definition:
By the word "dicasteries" are understood the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Councils and Offices, namely, the Apostolic Camera, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
Carlo Mario Francesco Pompedda JUD was an Italian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura for the Roman Curia. He spent nearly fifty years in a variety of posts within the Catholic Church's ecclesiastical court system, from 1955 to 2004.
A Doctor of both laws, from the Latin doctor utriusque juris, or juris utriusque doctor, or doctor juris utriusque is a scholar who has acquired a doctorate in both civil and church law. The degree was common among Roman Catholic and German scholars of the Middle Ages and early modern times. Today the degree is awarded by the Pontifical Lateran University after a period of six years of study, by the University of Würzburg, and by the University of Fribourg.
The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts is a dicastery of the Roman Curia. Its work "consists mainly in interpreting the laws of the Church".. It is distinct from the highest tribunal or court in the Church, which is the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and does not have law-making authority to the degree the Pope and the Holy See's tribunals do. Its charge is the interpretation of existing canon laws, and it works closely with the Signatura and the other Tribunals and the Pope. Like the Signatura and the other two final appellate Tribunals, the Roman Rota and the Apostolic Penitentiary, it is led by a prefect who is a bishop or archbishop.
Francesco Roberti was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in the Roman Curia from 1959 to 1969, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1958. He was also known for his work in moral theology.
Francesco Morano was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Secretary of the Apostolic Signatura in the Roman Curia from 1935 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1959.
Massimo Massimi was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in the Roman Curia from 1946 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1935.
Gaetano Cicognani was an Italian Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 1954 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1953 by Pope Pius XII. To date, he and his brother, Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, are the last pair of brothers to serve simultaneously in the College of Cardinals.
Dino Staffa was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 1967 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1967.
Aurelio Sabattani JUD was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 1967 until his death and was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 1983.
Giuseppe Casoria was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Prefect of the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship from 1981 to 1984, and elevated to the cardinalate in 1983.
Giuseppe Versaldi is the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, since his appointment, by Pope Francis on 31 March 2015. Previously, Versaldi served as President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See since 21 September 2011. Versaldi had served before that as Bishop of Alessandria. Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the rank of cardinal on 18 February 2012.
The law of Vatican City State consists of many forms, the most important of which is the Fundamental Law of Vatican City State. The Code of Penal Procedure governs tribunals and the Lateran Treaty governs relations with the Republic of Italy.
Pietro Marini was a Catholic cardinal.
Edward Neal Peters is an American Roman Catholic canonist who serves as Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura. He is professor of canon law at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The matrimonial nullity trial reforms of Pope Francis are the reforms of Catholic canon law governing such trials, made public 8 September 2015. The reforms were effected by two separate apostolic letters from Pope Francis, the motu proprio Mitis iudex dominus Iesus amending the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and the motu proprio Mitis et misericors Iesus amending the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. This was in response to the Bishops who, during the Synod on the Family of 5-9 October 2014, called for simplification of the procedure whereby a legally invalid marriage is declared null.
Dignitas connubii is an instruction issued by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts on 25 January 2005 on the discipline to be observed in diocesan and interdiocesan tribunals regarding causes of the nullity of marriage. It was compiled in close concert with dicasteries that have a related competence, namely, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. It was partially obrogated by the matrimonial nullity trial reforms of Pope Francis in 2015, but remains in effect.